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Israeli, Palestinian Leaders Promote Peace Initiatives on US Television - 2001-08-19

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres says he wants to work with Palestinian leaders to stop the violence in the region and bring about a solid cease-fire. But a Palestinian negotiator says his people want political negotiations with no conditions attached. The two men appeared in back to back interviews on American television.

Shimon Peres says he wants to see a new round of peace talks. But the Israeli Foreign Minister says, for now, the focus must be on ending the violence. "The Palestinians are suffering. They are tired," said Mr. Peres. "We are paying a very high cost and we want to bring an end to it."

During an appearance on the ABC television program This Week, Mr. Peres stressed the importance of negotiations.

A few minutes later, on the same broadcast, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat seized on that theme. He called for immediate negotiations without conditions - an idea already rejected by the Israelis. "I invite Mr. Peres to come and to resume the negotiations on all the political issues. Because I trust that Mr. Peres believes that it is cheaper for Palestinians and Israelis to negotiate for five years than to exchange bullets for five minutes," Mr. Erekat said.

The Sunday network television news programs in the United States also focused on the U.S. role in the region. Speaking on Fox News Sunday, Palestinian Legislative Council Member Hanan Ashrawi was critical of the Bush administration, saying the President is not sufficiently engaged in the Middle East. "It seems to me on the one hand you have moral and political bankruptcy in Israel, and on the other hand you have a moral and political lack of will in the U.S.," Ms. Ashrawi said.

The debate continued on CNN's Late Edition where Republican Senator George Allen of Virginia defended the President. He said Hanan Ashrawi is wrong to blame the United States for rising tensions in the region, saying Palestinian leaders are not doing enough to end suicide bombings and other violence against innocent civilians. "I do not think we ought to be blaming the United States for these attacks," Senator Allen said. " And for that matter, I don't think you should have equal blame to the Israelis when they are naturally provoked."

President Bush has been asked several times in recent days about the situation in the Middle East. His response was always the same: the United States wants to help, but the Israelis and the Palestinians must display the will to make peace.